Saturday 28 October 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Does he owe them?

Good day Richard, my boyfriend needs your help.

He had a loan from and he got retrenched last year June. He went to their office in Kanye to ask them about his balance so that he could make the payment. They did print the balance for him and he paid it. After some months he received a call that he has an outstanding balance but he told the caller he paid. Recently he requested a loan at his bank and he was told that his name is with ITC. He checked and it says he owes P15,000. He was in shock knowing he paid but they said he was supposed to pay P4,000 settlement when he paid the loan for clearing the loan before the agreed time. Now the P4,000 has accumulated interest monthly and it's now P15,000 and there is nothing they can do. Does he have to pay?

What a mess. Your boyfriend seems like a sensible guy who has done his best to manage his debt situation when he lost his job. Clearly he deserves better than this.

The first thing he should do is demand that the lender check their records and find out what's gone wrong here. If they find that they've made a mistake and he doesn't owe them anything they need to correct his credit record immediately so his history is as clean as it should be. And then they need to apologise. Sincerely.

If it emerges that he does owe them some money they need to explain why it's taken them so long to tell him and then they need to agree a reasonable repayment plan.

The lesson here is that lenders can't always be relied on to get things right. That's why, when you settle a debt, make sure you get something in writing from the lender confirming that you've paid everything you owe and the debt is closed forever. Then take a picture of that letter and send to someone you trust as a backup.

I also contacted the lender and they said they're investigating. I'll let you know what they say.

Will it happen again?

Is it possible for an investigation to take a whole month when your salary just disappeared in your account the day the money was transferred to you but you didn't have any links to deduct from your account? A friend of mine has the same issue he asked me to ask for him on his behalf. He got paid and the same day all the money was gone before independence. Right now they saying the matter is still at Head Office and they are still investigating. He asked them how safe it is now to get paid again on the same account. He said they told him they have cut the links that might be linked to his account and they gave him a new card. Is it possible that the bank will give him his salary back?

No, I don't think it's acceptable for a bank to take an entire month to investigate something like this. Don't they understand that very few of us can cope without our salary? A month's salary is probably trivial to them but it means a lot to you and me.

I suspect that they've done all they can to prevent the same problem happening again this month but your friend is still entitled to know where their money went.

I contacted the bank and I'll let you know what they plan to do.

Saturday 21 October 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

It's too hard!

I bought a bed from a store at Airport Junction and I used it for 2 weeks but now the bed is too firm for me. I went to the shop and they told me I can top up with P2,000 plus for me to get the more comfortable bed I want? Is this fair?

Unfortunately for you I suspect it is fair.

As consumers we have a wide range of protections and perhaps the most important is that we don't need to accept faulty goods. If a product is faulty we can return it to the store within 6 months for one of the three Rs: a repair, a replacement or a refund. However, it's important to remember that the store can choose which of the three Rs they choose. It's up to them to decide. They are, for instance, entitled to repair something they sold you that's faulty. However, it's also important to know that if that repair fails within 3 months and the same problem occurs again, they lose that R. Now they only have two Rs: a replacement or a refund.

But your case is different. From what you've said, there's nothing actually faulty about the bed. It's just a matter of taste? Some people like really soft beds, others like them really firm and most of us are in between. The lesson here is to do whatever you can (within reason, don't get arrested for public indecency!) to test a mattress before you buy it.

I suspect in this case the best option is to see if you can upgrade the mattress to one that's more suitable for you.

Who should I pay?

I recently got Transunion feedback that I am owing a furniture store. I called their office for payment arrangements and I was told my file has been handed over to a certain debt collection company which I contacted. I was then told my account is now into them and any payment arrangement should be done to them not the furniture store. I went back to the store for a proof that I am now paying a certain company which I don't have any agreement with. I was requesting for either a letter or anything that I will use as a confirmation but they refused to give me any proof. Now my question is how can I trust that company with my money and after clearing the debt who is going to clear my name from Transunion?

I haven't yet visited their office, they were only communicating through phone calls and WhatsApp. Kindly advise, thank you.

You have my respect for being cautious. However, this seems legit to me. Firstly wasn't it the furniture store that told you that the debt was now with the debt collection company? You gave me the name of the debt collection company and they seem to check out ok. They are a registered company and are public about the work they do.

However, I also think you're right that the furniture store should have told you officially that they were transferring the debt to this company. You were right to be cautious and when debt is involved there needs to be some trust and responsibility by everyone involved.

As for your last question, I suspect the answer is that you now deal entirely with the debt collectors. Obviously I don't know the details of this arrangement but often a lender like a bank or furniture store will give up chasing a customer who owes them money and sell the debt to a debt collector, often for a fraction of the outstanding amount. But now it's the debt collector to whom you owe money. The full amount.

In this situation the best thing you can do is meet with the debt collection people and negotiate a repayment plan that you can afford and they will accept.

Saturday 14 October 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

How do we deal with these fraudsters?

I need to know how to deal with fraudsters who claim to trade forex for you and vanish into thin air with your money. And you can still see their number being in use...even still advertising. How do you deal with them and to stop them from victimising others?

I don't want to sound like a preacher but the bad news is that sin will always be with us. Some of our neighbours are less moral that you and me and will do their best to take our money. Thieves and con-artists have always existed and always will. The only weapons we have to fight against them are knowledge and the law.

Let's start with knowledge. These forex scammers rely on our ignorance of how forex works. They suggest that by trading foreign currencies online the average person like you and I can make fabulous profits. What they fail to mention is that the only people who make consistent profits from forex trading are huge multinational companies like banks and investment companies who have vast amounts of money to trade with, enormously skilled forex specialists and supercomputers that do all the work for them. Can you and I compete against that?

More commonly these days the scammers will claim that they're offering the ability to trade in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but that's just another way they try to exploit our lack of knowledge. Like forex, very few of us understand how cryptocurrencies work and it's silly for us to think we can profit from them.

Finally there are the self-styled "gurus" who claim to offer advice to others on how to trade. But ask yourself this question. If they are so skilled at making money from these tools, why don't they just do it themselves? Why are they sharing these "opportunities" with us? It's simple. Because they don't actually make money from trading, they make money from us. We are the product that makes them money. Remember that anyone who invites you to join their money-making scheme wants to make money FROM you, not WITH you.

And the law? The Consumer Protection Act can protect us but NBFIRA can also take an interest if someone is offering financial or investment advice. Even Bank of Botswana can intervene if they see an "illegal deposit-taking scheme". What we need is for them to take action when they see wrongdoing. We need to see some of these crooks in handcuffs and then in prison.

Can't they check their records for me?

I need help I made a lay bye in mid-June this year at a store in Selebi Phikwe and I failed to pay my remaining balance. Honestly I forgot about the lay bye. I just found out from my journal book that I have a lay bye with them. Today I went to the store to be told the only way I got use my money it's only when I produce a receipt which I might have misplaced. I requested them check on their records but the sales assistant refused.

No. This is not good enough. Ok, I accept that you forgot to make a payment. But we're all human, we make innocent mistakes sometimes. You're not a criminal for making a mistake. Secondly you might have lost your receipt. Again, that's a mistake but again, hardly a crime. Remember also that many receipts fade after a few months so you might only have a blank piece of paper by now. The trick is to take a photo of all important receipts and then send them to a friend or relative as a backup.

However, I agree with you. Can't they check their records to get all the necessary details? Surely it's not that complicated? Maybe we should contact them and introduce them to a new idea they seem not to have heard of before? It's called 'customer service'. It involves going out of your way to help a customer when they need it. It involves not being difficult and lazy. It involves being a good person who helps their neighbours, their customers when they need it.

I contacted the Country Manager for this chain of stores and he asked for more details. He's a reasonable guy and I'm sure he'll understand that you are a customer who deserves some courtesy and assistance. If the store staff still don't understand I'm sure readers of The Voice would volunteer to explain it to them. Do they really want that?

Saturday 7 October 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my refund?

I bought a couple of things from a furniture company including a bed frame. One of their workers offered to assist me to buy a mattress for the bed. Before sending him the money, I called their boss to confirm if I could trust his guys of which he said I could. I sent him P2,000 for mattress on the 31st of July and to this day, I am still waiting. I ended up buying a mattress elsewhere. I met up with them at their warehouse earlier this month and I was promised my money back month end but now the story has changed and I am told that I should just go ahead and report the issue.

This is very suspicious. Why would an employee offer to help you buy something "on the side" like this. Why would the employer encourage or support one of their employees doing a deal themselves rather than through the company? Why would a furniture company that sells bed frames not be able to sell you a mattress as well?

I'm not an attorney but I think it's the company we should be talking to, not their employee. From what you say they approved of this side deal while you were on their premises and while you were buying the bed frame from them.

I think the best thing for the store to do is sit down with both you and the employee and identify a solution to this mess. If not, then we might need to escalate this to involve law enforcement and a possible charge of obtaining by false pretence?

Update: I contacted the store and the manager proposed exactly what I was going to suggest to him, that he gets you and the employee together to sort this out. Let me know what happens?

Won't they cover me?

Mr Harriman, I am writing this on behalf of my wife. She insured her car but unfortunately on the 23 July 2023 the unfortunate happened whereby she bumped in a parked car which belongs to me. After all the necessary steps taken and the relevant documents required were provided the insurer declined to attend to the car she bumped into as a third party their reason being that since we are married they can't cover the other car. We have since taken the issue to NBFIRA, we now waiting for the verdict.

My point of contention here is about the other car which they have taken for maintenance. Sir it is now almost three months with any development whereas they have taken the car telling us that they have found all the parts needed to maintain it. After some times having taken the car without any feedback we inquired why the delay. To our utter disbelief we were told they are no parts and that they have ordered them. All these was from garage where our car is. The owner of the garage took us from pillar to post. All these times we were contacting in insurer about our displeasure and they always promise to intervene but to no avail. Now we are told to wait for another 3 months for the parts to arrive. Imagine half a year waiting to be assisted I feel hard done by. Can you please help Sir.

This is something I've not heard before. The insurance company claims that a wife's policy doesn't cover damage to her husband's car? I think this will depend on the small print in your insurance policy. If there's a clause that says that then it's simple. But I'd be surprised if there was. The first thing you should do is get your policy document and read it very carefully. I assume you have a copy? The NBFIRA Policyholder Protection Rules make it very clear that you should have received a copy of the policy and if you've lost it they must give you a replacement.

As for the garage and their delays, you should mention to them that Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a supplier must offer "timely performance and completion" of services you're paying for and "timely notice of any unavoidable delay" if they happen.

I think you deserve better from both of these companies and I'm happy to contact them both for you.